We’ve told you before that we are committed to taking back the sea for sea creatures, one beach at a time. And we intend to keep our promise, by cleaning up plastic pollution on beaches around the world. But we need your help.
This time we’re focusing on beaches in Cape Town, South Africa, where plastic pollution is having a devastating effect on endangered sea turtle hatchlings.
Seventy-five percent of all plastic ever produced becomes waste, most of it ending up in our oceans. Shockingly, there is an estimated 5 TRILLION (that’s 5,000,000,000,000!) pieces of plastic in the ocean, and this figure is growing!
Sea turtles are literally choking under all the garbage!
More than half of the world’s turtles have ingested plastic.
The South African coastline is an important nesting area for endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles. In the winter months, juvenile turtles are swept down from the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal by the mighty Agulhas current to the southern coast where the stormy seas wash them ashore.
Most of these stranded hatchlings are suffering from dehydration, hypothermia and injury, which is a natural phenomenon – only one or two hatchlings in every thousand survive to maturity. But what is not natural is that their survival is now even more compromised by the amount of plastic the hatchlings have already ingested in their short lives.
Our partner, the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases stranded and distressed sea turtles, explained that more than 70% of the turtles they rescue have plastic inside of them. A total of 514 pieces of plastic were passed by the 47 hatchlings currently in the Foundation’s care. Sometimes there is so much plastic inside these baby turtles that they cannot be saved. In one turtle hatchling, they discovered 121 pieces of plastic! Of course, he had no chance of survival and died shortly after being rescued.
Plastic waste comes in all forms, but often the deadliest are microplastics; tiny bits of plastic that turtles mistake for food. When too many microplastics are ingested, it causes internal infections, blockages and eventually death.
With your help, we can save many of these animals from this terrible fate.
Bob and Harry are two adult green turtles undergoing rehabilitation at the Foundation…
Bob has been there for seven years recovering from a complicated brain injury. In the first months of Bob’s rehabilitation, he passed substantial amounts of plastic, including a balloon with a string! While Harry passed a large clear piece of plastic, which could have been mistaken for a jellyfish.
But it’s not only plastic waste that is affecting turtles. Discarded fishing gear and ghost nets are also lethal for larger turtles, as the creatures become entangled, injured and weighed down by the ropes and lines.
Unless we step in, these turtles have little hope for their survival.
Their two best chances both depend on us.
One, we need to clean up the plastic pollution in our seas and on our beaches. And two, we need to help rescue, rehabilitate and release these special creatures back into the ocean. That is why we have teamed up with two important organizations; the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation and The Beach Co-op, whose mission is to clean up South Africa’s beaches. There is strength in numbers, which is why we have banded with these organizations to have a greater positive impact on this issue.
Every piece of plastic removed from the ocean could be another turtle saved!
Together with The Beach Co-op, we are planning a massive beach clean-up at one of Cape Town’s turtle hotspots, Sunset Beach. Here, the Two Oceans Foundation team collects and rescues hundreds of hatchlings every year. Already, this year, 60 turtles have been rescued by the Foundation.
To help reduce the effects of plastic ingestion and to give future rescued turtles a better chance of survival, we are calling on all our supporters to help us and The Beach Co-op clean up Sunset Beach. But this isn’t any beach clean-up. As well as removing the bigger pieces of rubbish, we will also be focusing on sifting the sand and picking up every bit of deadly microplastic we can find.
But reducing plastic on the beach is only half the job. The next step is rescuing and rehabilitating each turtle that is found in distress. To do this we need to raise funds to help the Foundation provide critical medical and rehabilitation care for rescued hatchlings.
It costs just $2 (£1.50) a day to raise and rehabilitate one baby turtle, and it can take up to a year before the turtle is ready to be released into the wild. That is $730 (£527) per turtle. But, with only one in every 1,000 turtle hatchlings surviving to maturity, each one of these rescued hatchlings is worth it.
Right now, 47 stranded hatchlings are being cared for at the Foundation’s rehab center. Each one needs constant care, food and monitoring in a high-tech saltwater life-support system if it’s to survive long enough to be released back into the ocean.
It is easy at this point to feel despondent and hopeless at the state of our oceans and the harm that is being caused to these incredible creatures. But there is hope. Turtles are resilient; they are strong, and they are fighters. Please donate generously to these ocean ambassadors today.